-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the real Cubs fans eat.
Last week I pointed out where the Sox fans eat so now its the home teams turn. The past 25 years Wrigley Field and its neighborhood of Wrigleyville has turned into a tourist trap zone and is now filled with nothing but fashionable bars and shops carrying Cubs gear with ticket outlets inside. If your going to the game with family/friends you have already spent a couple hundred bucks before you get inside and pay for food and beer by the time your done and go home you've spent five hundred bucks. Gone are the days when kids could sneak under the metal turnstile and get into a game for free and watch some bad daytime baseball and eat for free for entertaining the drunken bleacher bums. As a real Cubs fan knows you have to make some sacrifices if you want the ultimate goal of a good baseball team. The neighborhood may of lost most of its character and along with it many locally owned businesses like restaurants and bars but the Northside now puts out a consistently good team that people expect to make the playoffs and win now. While most of the neighborhood is nothing like what it was in the 70's and '80's having gone the way the corporation there are a few things that remain the same. There are better eating options than Harey Carey's and I'm here to tell you where.
a real locals type spot in Wrigley is rare these days
Hamburger King aka Chester's has been serving the people of Wrigleyville with affordable tasty breakfast/greasy spoon comfort food for over 25 years. This is a place that everyone goes too on any given day you can be dining with one of 100's of regulars, Cubs fans, cops, crooks, students, anyone that works for the city, yuppies, hippies, musicians, industry people, artists, families, day laborers, seniors and there's always someone who still comes back despite moving out of the neighborhood to the suburbs 15 years ago. Located at the corner of Clark and Sheffield it blends in with a liquor store and barber shop and if not for the neon Chicken teriyaki noodles sign it would be virtually unrecognizable. Hamburger King has already been mentioned here as the ultimate spot to kill a hangover and its a great place for the yuppie drunks of Wrigleyville to have. As mentioned in the previous post the burgers are a tasty rendition of the '30's style burger and the breakfast is great for a pregame meal and people love the comfort food like the chopped steak, pork chops, roast beef and gravy and meatloaf but the star of the show is the Oriental lovers part of the menu.
an early morning at Hamburger King before an early season Cubs game
Hamburger King was once called Chester's when Chester himself manned the grill and from the stories I have heard no one treated his customers and employees better. No matter who they were, or what they did in this world, Chester always gave a great amount of respect to his customers. Just like the customers the times have not changed either despite the passing of Chester years ago. His wife Sonia stays up to par with everything and it is one of Chicago's most treasured eateries and a real character in the dining world. Its the type of place you would expect to find on a corner in Hawaii in an old WW2 vet neighborhood. The Asian part of the menu is the good stuff and the rest of breakfast is good as are the burgers but its all about the Asian grease fare. I would really appreciate it of all you people that go to the game to get drunk and be scene and "get a little sun" would at least fill your belly up at Hamburger King before the game. This way I don't have to see and smell your vomit when you puke in the third inning after too many Mai Tai's because you didn't eat anything and cant handle liquor to begin with. Eat here before the game and it will absorb the liquor for you.
Im talking to the people at the game who didn't know who Lou Pinniella was before he was the Cubs manager and couldn't tell you who the "Hawk" is or where Carlos Zambrano is from or what the score is. You just sit there in your Mark Prior jersey t-shirt, watch the game and try keep your iphone in your pocket, you don't need pictures, no one cares your at the game. Try and act like you've been here before, even if you cant remember it due the fact you blacked out on too many soco limes. Just behave properly or else you gotta deal with me. Got it? Good. Now onto the food. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorites.
As explained a few months ago this dish is the ultimate hangover cure. Hamburger King is a great place to go when one is high on life and or other things and this dish is the king for them. It was created by a regular who's last name happens to have been Aktagawa and is a huge plate full of chopped hamburger meat, eggs, green pepper, onions, bean sprouts and I add in mushrooms served with a side of rice and gravy and two pieces of white or wheat toast. I top off my ultimate hangover cure with the spice dust available at every table, plenty of tabasco sauce and a spray of soy sauce. Sure to soak up the shots from last night and to soak in the shots after a day of binge drinking in Wrigleyville.
The seven flavored chili pepper spice dust which is popular in Japan works well with everything. The burgers and fries are great with a dash of dust added and its a must to sprinkle some spice on/in every dish. It takes everything up another level. I use it very liberally and put spoonfuls in my soup.
Chicken Yat Ca Mein
This is my go to dish during the winter months and the perfect pre-game food on opening day at the ballpark, which is always cold. The broth is Sonia's homemade special blend and the deepness in flavor makes it one of the best bowls of soup on a cold day. I'm not sure but I think the liquid mixture consists of a trio of homemade chicken, beef and pork broths. Inside the amazing broth are noodles, chopped green onions and your choice of chicken, steak or pork with a hard boiled egg. I always go with a chicken and load it with the shichimi spice mix. What a meal and what a steal at under six bucks. I learned that yat ca mein even has a history in New Orleans.
Chicken Teriyaki over fried rice
Hamburger king does a great rendition of the greasy teriyaki found at many diner/grills in Hawaii and Los Angeles. If you don't like ordering any of the items which names you cant pronounce and are totally unfamiliar with then I suggest you try some teriyaki. Its just what the doctor ordered after a long night of drinking or right before a long day of drinking at the game.
When it comes to finding a good bowl of bibimbap in Chicago than look no further than the King. I've been around town and tried many different places version of this popular Korean dish. None of them do it like HK. For those that dont know what they are missing bibimbap is a bowl of warm rice topped with sauteed veggies and gochujang (chili pepper paste) and thin sliced bulgogi all topped with a fried egg. The combination of the veggies, steak, rice and chili sauce is an amazing flavor and when you want it you just need it. It can get real fiendish and Hamburger King is the place to feed your need. Whenever I hear and read the hype and comments from people that comes when a place like Five Guy's or another Potbelly's is opening up I cant help but explain to them that its not another Panera bread that your neighborhood needs but rather a spot to dine at like Chester's. Its the places like Hamburger King that are the heart and soul of Chicago neighborhoods and at a time there were many that made up Chicago. These days its as hard to find place a like these as it is easy to find a Noodles and Company or Subway.
The 2009 Cubs
My 2009 outlook for the Cubs will be short and sweet, like I said I'm a real fan and at this point I know better than to expect a world series ring but I do like the teams chances in '09. The trade of Mark Derosa made sense at the time for one reason and one reason only and that was acquiring more young pitching to land the best pitcher in baseball. The Cubs never pulled off the deal for Jake Peavy due to the teams pending sale and now we lost one of best clutch hitters and got some players that mean nothing now for him in Derosa who was also a key part of the team off of the field. The addition of Milton Bradley is nice as long as he stays healthy (he's already aching) and the lineup is going to be the same team that lead the NL in Runs and a bunch of other hitting categories last year. The reason Jake Peavy would of been so huge on top of the fact we would have one of the best pitching staffs ever is it would allow Zambrano to start game 3 on the road away from Wrigley Field. The lineup is stacked and if it can finally hit in the playoffs it could only help to have a staff that is literally un-hittable. Jake Peavy would start game 1, Rich Harden game 2 (both at home) and Zambrano would get to pitch away from Wrigley which I think would make the Cubs the clear favorite to win it all. Cubs will and better win the division this year but without Peavy I'm not sure we can win the World Series. We will however win a playoff series this year...if not there's always next year.
3435 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Note: Open for breakfast/lunch only